Philadelphia mayoral race heats up

PHILADELPHIA – With only a few days left before the mayoral election, Democratic Mayor John Street, the city’s second African American mayor, reportedly has a 5 percent lead in the polls against Sam Katz, his Republican opponent, with 12 percent of voters undecided.

It seems that the discovery of an FBI eavesdropping device in Street’s office and a wide-ranging federal investigation into city contracts just as the campaign started has angered many voters and resulted in increased support for Street.

When U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft visited Philadelphia to speak at a meeting of the International Chiefs of Police, the city’s three congressmen demanded to meet with him regarding the FBI investigation. Ashcroft refused.

A poll showed that 62 percent of all Philadelphia voters and 88 percent of Black voters believe the FBI investigation is a dirty trick by Republicans in Washington, D.C.

Street has the support of many unions, including the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, the Building Trades and AFSCME District Council 47, which represents white-collar city workers. But District Council 33, which represents the city’s blue-collar workers, a majority of them Black, is supporting Katz. Two of its 14 locals, however, have rebuked that decision and are supporting Street. Those locals represent sanitation workers and Department of Welfare workers.

In a statement released Oct. 24, the Communist Party of Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware charged the White House with “dirty tricks” in the Philadelphia mayoral election.

“The incursion of the FBI in Philadelphia’s election is clearly a plot to destroy and defeat a Black mayor and clear the way for a Republican takeover,” the statement said. “Only with the use of racism could they possibly get away with it. George Bush wants a Republican victory in Philadelphia at any price.”

The statement, titled “Put an end to the racist plot for a Republican takeover of Philadelphia!” asks, “How many times in the history of the United States have mayors or city governments been exposed for corruption? Many, many times! How many times has the FBI intervened in exposing such corruption in the midst of an election? And, how many white mayors have faced such attacks? None!”

Noting Bush’s silence in the face of the FBI actions, the statement continues, “And what about Sam Katz? Are not free and democratic choices touted as the pride of our system’s free elections? Why has he lent credence to this sorry state? No, not a word of anger or protest at the destruction of free elections, if not for the use of racism from Katz.

“The attacks against Mayor Street are vicious racist acts that threaten the most democratic forms of our government and all of our people. Our right to free elections is being destroyed.”

The statement concludes: “Call. Write. Demand the Justice Department stop all racist persecution now! It is incumbent upon all those to whom racism is repellent, to whom democracy is treasured, to go to the polls on November 4th to defeat the attack against democracy.”

In many ways this year’s mayoral election in Philadelphia, where Al Gore amassed a 4 to 1 margin over George Bush in 2000, will set the stage for the November 2004 elections.

The author can be reached at phillyrose1@earthlink.net